Top 10 Ways Warrior Dash and Farming Are Alike.

This weekend We ran in our 4th Warrior Dash with our group appropriately named “Just A Little Dirty!”

  For those of you unfamiliar with Warrior Dash, it is a 5k run (or jog in our case) with obstacles and a lot of mud mixed throughout, especially this year.

  
This month (June/15) we have had abnormal amounts of rain, rain and more rain.  This made the parking areas (a hay field) for the event a muddy mess (to no fault of the promoter or venue).  Now it wasn’t that we and other participants weren’t warned of this and told by the promoters to “carpool and drive 4×4 vehicles” there leaving small cars at home, but for some a Prius may be all they have.  At any rate, it wasnt a good place for “grocery getters” to be. 

As for the race itself, it was a blast and one of the most challenging to date. There were new obstacles, plenty of mud, huge and fast water slides, cargo nets to climb over, walls to climb to test your skills, and plenty of mud to crawl over and swim through.  Oh and barbed wire and fire…yes, real barbed wire and fire. 

(Play the video to see the water slide part of an obstacle named Goliath.)   

       While these obstacles may be considered extreme for most, I got to thinking about the barbed wire, getting stuck, the obstacles, the hard work and life skills it takes to complete the race, and of course the mud, and how it relates to the farm.  So here are the top 10 ways the Warrior Dash and Farming are Alike!  

 Top 10 Ways That Warrior Dash and Farming Are Alike:
1. The Early Bird Gets the Worm, usually has a better experience, and doesn’t get stuck in the mud.  
2. 4×4’s are a necessity, small cars belong on concrete.

3. You pay a lot of money to play in the /dirt mud. Quit complaining.  
4. It’s always going to be too wet, too cold, too hot, etc. Suck it up buttercup and enjoy it!

 5. Mother Nature can be a cruel cruel creature, learn to adjust to her. She is in charge at all times. 
6. Large amounts of rain and repeated rains aren’t your friend.

7. Weather it be a tractor or a car, every vehicle has its limit on how much mud it can handle, and so does its drivers. Mud is real.

8. No matter how hard the task, Never Give Up.  
9. Roll with the punches. You and those in charge can do everything right and still have everything go horribly wrong. 

10. (last but not least) Help others in need. When your neighbor is stuck, get out and help them. Karma is real.

Big thank yous out to Warrior Dash and all those who made this event possible.  It continues to challenge us and bring our group together by creating life long memories!  
I’ll leave you with a few more pics and one more way Warrior Dash and Farming are alike.

11.  After a hard days work, stop, sit back, enjoy what you have accomplished and have a beverage of choice,  you earned it! 

 
Extra pics:

   

  

  

  

  
  

  

  

  

  

  

  

    

Experience #plant14 via a #GoPro!

On a normal spring day your driving down the highway out in the country, enjoying the scenery of farmstead after farmstead and fields that seem to have no end in sight.  Along the way, you see some dust flying just ahead and begin to wonder what it is.  As you drive closer you notice a farmer in his fields with his tractor and planter, planting perfectly straight row after perfectly straight row.  You begin to wonder what it would be like to be in the fields with him/her, planting the seeds of the future, risking so much just to put his/her future in the unpredictable hands of Mother Nature.  Well, now you have the chance to experience just that!

 

Our Plating Tractor with a GoPro Mounted to the Fender

Our Plating Tractor with a GoPro Mounted to the Fender

While planting our first 100 acres, I took out my GoPro and began to make a video showing what its like to be in the fields, planting corn, as well as some close up shots showing how the planter operates.  Check it out by visiting our farms YouTube Channel (BoucherFarmsIL) or by clicking here > Planting Corn 4/25/14.

#plant14 begins!

#plant14 begins!

 

A few weeks ago I posted about how farmers use GPS and VRT technology to plant more efficiently, which can be viewed by clicking here and This past week, we began to use that technology when we began #plant14 on the farm.  So far we have 180 acres of corn planted and are hoping for some nice warm weather to help it get off to a great start.

Close up of the Row Cleaners at work

 

I highly encourage you to follow the #plant14 hashtag on twitter and facebook.  Thousands of farmers from across the nation and beyond are posting their experiences this planting season using that category.  I hope to see you there!

Thank you and God Bless!

 

 

 

Just What Do Farmers Do in the Winter Anyhow?

We’ve all been there.  Your on a warm weathered road trip, a vacation or just out to see a distant relative.  Along the way you see a grain farmer (like myself) out in his fields, working the ground, tending to his crops, or harvesting.  Basically doing what farmers do.  While you are watching that farmer for that small moment of time, the thought runs through your head,  What do they do in the winter?

 

“What do you do in the winter?” is the number one question I, as a farmer, have ever been asked over the years.  It’s usually followed by the joking assumption that we sit in the house and watch Oprah, Springer and Maury all day.  However, Nothing can be further from the truth.

Yes,  we work hard in the warmer months of the year, but what about the winter?  What exactly does a farmer who cant be in his fields and cant tend to crops due to the freezing cold conditions do all winter?

 A lot!

  Alright, so you may have saw that general response coming.  So let me be more specific.    In the winter, a grain farmer usually:

1.Hauls away the previous years crop from his grain bins to be sold at the elevator..

2. Works tirelessly on paperwork, closing out the year before and beginning the new year.

3. Attends meetings offered by Agricultural based companies in efforts to learn to be better at his/her job.

4.  Completes all of the maintenance needed on his/her equipment to make sure its ready for the following year.

The list can go on and on.

For the moment, lets talk about  #4 Maintenance.  Why?  Because its something we can all relate to.

If you own a vehicle, there is no doubt that at one time or another you may have had a breakdown or a flat tire.  Things happen, but a general maintenance plan can help with that.  Every 3000 miles or so, your car will need an Oil Change and maybe a new air filter.  Every 50,000 or so miles it may need new tires, brakes or something else. If this maintenance isn’t completed in a timely manner chances are the vehicle wont last too long without having mechanical issues when you need it the most.   Farm equipment is no different   They need the same type of maintenance that your vehicle does, just on a larger scale.  While a late model car may need its 4 quarts of oil changed every 3000 miles (for around $25-$45 at your local dealer).  A tractor can run over 100-500 hours (depending on the model) before its 5-15 gallons of oil need to be changed (for $200 or more in the farmers shop).  A cars tires may last 50,000 miles and cost $150 each while a tractors tires may last 4000 hours and cost upwards of $1500 each to replace (often having 6-8 tires).  As you can imagine, this takes time.  Especially if you have to do this type of maintenance when you need the vehicle or tractor the most.

So what do farmers do in the winter?  A large part of it is maintenance, especially preventative maintenance.  Every winter, at one time or another, virtually every piece of farm equipment we have is brought into our farm shop to be checked over.  First we start just outside the shop door, blowing all of the dust and crop debris off of the machine with an air hose.  Next, as in the case of this tractor, its brought into the shop for an oil change.

Hoods up, lets get to work!

Hoods up, lets get to work!  (When you see it…comment as to what it is)

Under our John Deere 6310.  Getting ready to drain the oil into a bucket for it to be recycled.

Under our John Deere 6310. Getting ready to drain the oil into a bucket for it to be recycled.

Throughout my tractor maintenance ritual, I treat the tractor much like a mechanic would your car.  Like, checking air pressure in the tires, checking the antifreeze and other fluid levels and so on.  After the oil is changed, fluids checked, air pressures checked, and more, its time to for a wash, some touch up paint and a wax before it leaves the shop. (Look for a future post explaining more about what we do)

All of this is done to maintain our farm equipment so it can be the best it can be.  We hope the machines we use have long and breakdown free lives, just as you do your vehicle.  This type of preventative maintenance along with many other responsibilities are what keeps many farmers like me busy throughout the year, especially in the winter months.   So if you ever wonder what farmers do in the winter, simply stop by and knock on the farm shop door.  Chances are, you’ll find a farmer inside.

The Original AutoSteer

As little as 10 years ago AutoSteer for tractors and combines was considered a luxury. Farmer quotes like

Why in the world do we need that?

And

Why would anyone spend that much money to have a tractor steer itself? I’ve done it for years!!!

…were pretty commonly said whenever the subject of GPS and AutoSteer were brought up at the coffee shop.

Today however is a different story. Today nearly every farmer has some type of GPS system in at least one of his tractors, complete with AutoSteer. Many farmers have a system in every tractor or combine they have and use for nearly every application you can think of.

So where did this all start? Where did the idea for this AutoSteer come from? Who came up with the idea?
I wish I knew….but maybe I do.

While checking out my bud, Tim Homerding’s Facebook page the other day I saw this pic of him plowing

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And then this one:

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And it dawned on me.

We’ve had AutoSteer all along!

When plowing, the front tire of a tractor is placed into a furrow which was left by the previous pass of the plow. The furrow is commonly just big enough to fit the tractors right side tires into it. Once the tire is in the furrow and the tractor is driving along, the tires generally stay in the furrow area with little correction from the driver.

There ya go, the first (very basic) AutoSteer was born! Ok, so not really but it kinda worked like one.

Although we no longer plow like Tim did in these pics, I have to admit I do miss those days. I miss our older tractors which didn’t have GPS, AutoSteer or a computer screen. However, I would miss my AutoSteer that I have now much much more.

The Funny Farm, and Greener Grass

Who remembers the Movie “Funny Farm‘?  It was released in 1988 (a major drought year for the entire Midwest) and quickly became a huge hit at the theaters bringing in over 25 million dollars.  To this day, 24 years later, it can still be seen from time to time on TV. The premise of the movie loosely revolves around the theory that

“The Grass Is Always Greener On the Other Side of the Fence until you have to mow it”

Heres the basic Story line: Andy and Elizabeth are sick of life in the city, and decide to move to the country. Buying a home near a picturesque town, then soon discover (to their horror) that things are done differently in the country. They must deal with all of the local characters, the local animals, as well as any skeletons in the closet. Written by Murray Chapman

Like I said, this movie, starring Chevy Chase, was released 24 years ago. Surely, due to the fast paced world we live in, people would have outgrown the “Grass is Greener” mentality and moved on to something else right?  Nope.  We all like to have something better than what we have, and when looking at what we want, its human nature to only look at the good parts that come along with it, effectively ignoring the unpleasant parts.  That mentality rings true in this movie, today, and certainly will well into the future.

Today, I ran across a link on Facebook containing a news report about flies in the country side.  A farmer who had been there long before any suburbanites had spread some manure on his field. (As I’m sure he always has). Yet spreading the manure was not seen as a good thing by those who moved in near the farm.

To quote the article;

People who live on Karner Drive say the spreading of manure on a nearby farm has made life unbearable and created a health hazard.

Disclaimer: The use of manure is highly regulated by various agencies and is not a health hazard.  In fact manure is a quality organic fertilizer.

Whats the farmers take on this:

The farmer, John O’Loughlin told us he was there first and if you move next to a farm, you should expect to have flies.

According to the article, the City says:

this problem may lead to a new ordinance.

So who is in the right here?  The farmer who has been there forever and has the right to do as he has done for years, or the newbies who moved to the area to “Live in the Country”?  Should there be a new ordinance against something that has been going on for years before others moved into the area?  You decide.  Meanwhile, in my opinion this sign sums it all up.

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In closing,  I (as well as many others in the country) have no problem with someone moving to the countryside. In fact, I encourage it.  However, I hope they take the time to know why the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.  If they don’t, they just might be moving into a “Funny Farm”

Making Farm Safety #1

For generations, Farming and Ranching has been considered one of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in the US. It’s no secret that large animals can be very unpredictable, farm accidents occur both on and around the farm, and now and again there are farmer vs vehicle accidents on our nations roads. While many farm accidents are avoidable many are simply a hazard that goes along with the job. Murphy’s law. without a doubt. exists in Agriculture.

Being a farmer and a father of three, safety is a top priority on my farm. Accidents can, do and have happened over the years. Let’s just say after an accident long ago, we are very lucky to have my Dad here with us today. That being said, its understandable to say that my family is very safety conscious and, from time to time, takes additional measures to help ensure our own day to day safety on our farm.

Our latest example of increasing safety on our farm is a simple one, A right side step for our tractor.

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On many front wheel assist (similar to a 4×4 vehicle) tractors, there are steps on the left (drivers side) for the operator to get in and out of the cab. However since there is no cab access on the right side, there are no steps and nothing to stand on to access the right side of the tractor. This presents a problem when a headlight needs to be changed, when washing the tractor or when simply cleaning its windows. In order to complete those tasks, I normally have to climb up the rear of the tractor, then climb onto the rear outer tire in order to reach the lights, or clean the upper parts of the windows.

That’s until these parts came in the other day
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Here is a picture of what the right side of the tractor looks like as if it were New from the John Deere Factory in Waterloo IA.

(See how a new John Deere MFWD Tractor is made by clicking here)

The Muffler is on the right, and part of the fuel tank is showing below.

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With two of us at work, a few wrenches, and about a half hour, here is what it looks like now.

Side view of new side step and railing.

Front Right of Cab with new step and railing

At the end of the day, I can honestly say that I am very satisfied with the step, how easily we were able to install it, and the increased safety it offers. The only thing I will change on it is the color of the hand railing. This winter, the green railing will be removed, repainted to match the muffler’s black color and replaced so it wont stand out quite as much.

Yes, this example of increased safety was relatively inexpensive, quick and easy to install, but that is exactly the point. The Majority of the most valuable safety measures are indeed cheap and easy to install, yet seem to be commonly overlooked. Another example of a cheap and easy safety measure is a simple SMV sign which I wrote about on this blog a few days ago.

Check it out by clicking here: “While Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down”

In closing, I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to look around their home or at their place of work and identify at least one thing that could be a safety hazard and address it. Weather its big or small, weather someone else notices or not, you will make a difference to someone. The someone who didn’t accidentally get injured thanks to a moment of your kindness.

God Bless

As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down

We’ve all been there.  You are in a hurry, your driving down the road, with places to be and things to do and worst of all, your hungry.  Then ahead in the distance, there is a string of brake lights….yes another traffic jam.  As you get closer you see flashing yellow lights.  The thought of “construction again?” crosses your mind.  As you pull up on the car in front of you, you then realize it isn’t construction at all, its a piece of farm equipment doing a mere 20 mph  taking up nearly the whole road making it seemingly impossible to pass.  Frustration overcomes you, then maybe a little anger because you will surely be late for your appointment, or whatever else it may be.  But, eventually (after what seemed like an eternity) its your turn to pass.  Still frustrated and maybe still angry for being late, you might honk in displeasure and wave at the farmer as you drive by (Ill let you count the amount of fingers used).  But then life goes on, you pull into your favorite drive through and order up dinner to go (Ironic huh?) and get Safely on your way.

We’ve all been in those shoes before.  Running late, in a hurry, and stuck in traffic.  Its common everyday right?  Happens all the time and at the end of the day everyone gets home safe.  Not always.  According to The Michigan Secretary of State:

From 2004 through 2009, more than 1,000 crashes involving farm equipment occurred in Michigan. Of those crashes, 272 involved injuries and 22 fatalities.

In the coming weeks, Harvest will begin to gear up across the Midwest.  Drivers will see an increased number of Farm Equipment traveling our nations back roads, County Roads, and State Routes as well.  One thing all of these pieces of Farm Equipment have in common is a simple triangular shaped reflective sticker or panel attached to them.  Like the one below.  Now I have to assume most of you reading this have a valid drivers licence and know your road signs, but lets take a short quiz as a refresher.

What is the name of this Sign?

What Does it Mean?

Where do you usually find it?

I know, its an easy one right?  I hope it was.  Here’s the answers:

What is the name of the sign?

 SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle)

What does it Mean?

 The vehicle it is attached to is moving at a reduced rate of speed, usually around or under 25mph.

Where do you usually find it?

Rear of a John Deere Combine with SMV

How’d you do?  It was easy right?

These Slow Moving Vehicles present a challenge to their operators and other drivers alike.  I personally,  know all too well, that driving a slow, large, often tall and wide, piece of farm equipment from field to field has its challenges.  Narrow roads, narrow bridges, low clearance on overhead bridges, construction, etc etc, are huge concerns just to name a few.  However my (and other farmers) main concern is safety of  the other drivers who are on the road as well as our own.

While all farm equipment legally has to have a SMV attached to it before it can be driven on the road, many late model combines and tractors have numerous flashing (hazard) lights as well as Beacon Lights to warn other drivers of their slower speeds.  Still some drivers just don’t seem to notice and or respect the warnings these safety measures put out.

In my personal experience while driving farm equipment on the roads,  I have been passed on the right (on the shoulder), been honked at numerous times, seen “the finger” waved my way more times than I can count, have had a few near misses, and have ran partially off the road in order to avoid an accident.  I can go on and on.  However have been lucky enough to have never been in an actual Tractor or Combine vs Car accident, though many others have, like this

or this

From a farmers point of view, we understand that while driving our equipment on the roads presents a challenge to other drivers. However, moving our equipment from field to field via our nations roads is an important and necessary way for us to plant, care for and harvest our crops which help feed you and your family, as well as the world.  Just like every other driver on the road, a farmers top priority is getting to the next location safely.

So next time you are on your way to work, and come up on a SMV, like a Tractor or Combine, please slow down, most farmers will try to give you some room to pass when its safe, then maybe even give a wave.   Please remember,

 As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down

 

Goodbye Old Friend

Today I parted ways with and old friend of many years.  I’ve known and have spent countless hours with this friend since I was a little one myself and know every thing about er.

 I basically grew up with this friend but after realizing this friends time has come and gone, I as well as my Dad and Uncle knew it was time to cut er free, and let er go.

Now this may sound a bit silly at first but hear me out, this friend isn’t a family pet, or a family member, or anything to get too terribly attached to, it’s a piece of Iron.

Yeah, I just might have made you say WTH? in your head, or maybe you get where I’m headed here.  Either way, let me explain:

This Old Friend is a 1980s model 4600 Cultivator:

Ever since I was barely big enough to sit on my Dads or Uncles lap in the tractor cab in the spring, this cultivator was behind me, tilling the dirt, prepping the fields for planting, etc etc.  Through out the years, I can fondly remember a few memories made here and there while pulling it through the field.  I learned (as a kid) that even though you have 4 tires on the main frame, if one goes flat, the others will not be of any help getting you to the other end of the field, they work together as a team.  I also learned how to change a tire on that day.  I can remember leveling off plowed ground with it one spring and coming up on a wet spot in the field, but it didn’t look too bad.  While the tractor made it through it just fine, when this old friend hit the spot, it went down..hard, and almost stopped the tractor as well.  I also remember learning a very important lesson about changing the sweeps (the part that actually moves the soil around when in the field).

NEVER, and I mean NEVER, attempt to hold the sweep bolt down with your finger if you are using an Air Wrench to take the nut off on the other side!

 I’m sure just about every farmer knows what I’m talking about there, but incase you don’t, here’s a short explanation on what happens when you spin that nut off the back side:  Since the front of the bolt is constantly  rubbed by soil, it wears flat, and gets very sharp edges.  Now picture, your finger holding it in place then all of a sudden that bolt spins around at an RPM high enough to slice your finger open in a flash.  The usual result is something like

Son of a *#&$^#&^&@#&@*&&^$,

followed by a lot of blood, water to clean the cut, and electrical tape…farmers dont need band aids 😉

The point is, I learned a lot from this old Red Friend, and will miss it.  Well, I suppose I wont really miss it, but I will miss the memories, life lessons learned  and much more that running this rig in the field taught me.

To loosely quote a conversation between my Uncle and I this past week,  I stated that it is just a piece of Iron, which is true, but he replied (in not so many words)

 Its more than that.  Its your heritage, your memories, it’s where you came from, it’s what got you to where you are today, it’s a part of who you are.

Today, Im finding those words to be very true.

To me this picture says it all.  Years ago, when I was a kid, this tractor and cultivator were perfect in every way.  Today, the tractor and soil finisher in the background are the widely considered to be the preferred tools to use.  I’m not saying either is good or bad, just that everything has its time.  And for this old Friend, its time has come on our farm.  So maybe, someday, my kids will look back on the tractor and soil finisher in the background with memories of their own, just as I am doing now.  Maybe, they will have their own stories to tell their kids (and you), as I do.  But one thing is for sure, they too will eventually have to say:

Goodbye Old Friend, and thanks for the Memories

What’s in a name? “The Farm Bill”

Whats in a name?  The answer is everything!  A “Name” includes someones or somethings reputation, personality, perspective, etc etc.  For instance, if you go to purchase a Chevy, Ford or another brand of Truck, you expect to get a quality Truck.  When you visit your local cafe you expect to sit down to a good meal.  When you hear the words “Farm Bill” in the media or elsewhere it would be logical to expect the bill to revolve around Farming, Right?  Wrong.  Let me explain:

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As you can see in this chart, the “Farm Bill” mainly consists of government funding for Food stamps.  80% of it to be exact, which translates to 82 billion (with a B) dollars!

So if 80% of the “Farm Bill” doesn’t go to “Farm” purposes then the other 20% must right?  Wrong again.

Of the 20% of the “Farm Bill” funding left after Food Stamp funding is removed, another 6% is taken out for Conservation purposes.

So we started with a “Farm Bill”, removed 80% of it to cover non farm costs, in the form of food stamps, then removed another 6% for Conservation.  This leaves a mere 14% of the initial “Farm Bill” to actually be put to use on Americas Farms to increase our nations food security.

Where do the truth in advertising laws kick in here?  If you bought that Truck from above, and 86% of it turned out to be a Car you may not be too satisfied.  If you went to that cafe and realized 86% of it was a bar, you may be disappointed.   So why is the “Farm Bill” still named the Farm Bill?  Well, its simple, it always has been and probably always will be, even if its incorrect. 

If you had the chance to rename the “Farm Bill” what would it be?
      (Leave your comment below)

Thank you for reading, and God Bless!